Bob Mould

Bob Mould

Rykodisc, 1996

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Leaving behind his band Sugar, Bob Mould struck out on his own for the third time with this self-titled 1996 album that saw the former Husker Du songwriter moving into new, somewhat quieter and no less thoughtful territory.

Mould wrote and produced all 10 songs and plays all the instruments, fulfilling both his desire to be completely solo and to embrace more lo-fi recording methods. This is hardly Pavement, mind you, but rather an excuse to scale back the guitar noise and let the song speak for itself. Because of this, the album is quite good, from the harmonies and chiming acoustic guitar of "Fort Knox, King Solmon" to the run-down mood of "Anymore Time Between" to the post-breakup examination "Next Time That You Leave" (featuring the line "I'm burning out my memory / I don't need reminders / Remind me to forget").my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The more serious subject matter is offset by the uptempo, jarring "I Hate Alternative Rock," which purposely leverages a generic power chords to make its point: "Tired epileptic charade / I knew you when you had something to say ... You feel threatened now / There's other icons flying higher now / As you grab for the past, you know it won't last." In 1996, the last year that alt-rock was a major commercial and music force, this song made perfect sense...yet given that Husker Du was a leading light of the original alternative scene, Mould could just as well be talking about himself.

Like any singer/songwriter, Mould is prone to fits of self-observation, but he wisely avoids pity or contempt, instead acting as a sort of third-person narrator to his own life on songs like "Thumbtack" (using tacks on a wall map as a metaphor for staying stuck in the same life rut) and "Egoverride." The one time he gives in to pity is on the fairly terrible "Hair Stew," which features obtuse lyrics and an irritating screeching noise halfway through.

Far better is "Deep Karma Canyon," which swings, slightly, and "Art Crisis," a cousin to "I Hate Alternative Rock." The album closes with the disturbing "Roll Over and Die," which suggests Collective Soul gone bad and a clunky relationship-suicide equation ("If I couldn't hold you / I'd end it all / I wish I could have told you why").

With two songs eschewing his alt-rock past, Mould is clearly looking to be taken on his own terms, and his eponymous record has the sounds of mid-90s rock but rises above the cliches with its lyrics and strong, quirky songwriting. Not a rousing success - it's unlikely these songs will stay with you for too long - but a good rock album nonetheless.

Rating: B-

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